As my first anniversary as CEO of BDO has just passed, it seems like a good time to take a look back at my first 12 months at the helm of this unique global network.
Casting my mind back, I can vividly recall that only a few weeks after my appointment, I headed to Hamburg, Germany, for BDO’s annual international conference. Although slightly apprehensive at the prospect of speaking for the first time as CEO, what I remember most is my excitement at the opportunities that lay ahead. Hamburg 2011 was a thoroughly enjoyable, positive and welcoming first experience as CEO, and set the tone for the year to come.
Over the past 12 months, I have travelled extensively to meet with partners in our firms across the world. Only a few months into my role, I travelled to eight countries in just nine days. Wherever I travel, whoever I visit, I am always greeted with overwhelming hospitality and warmth. It is through my experiences with BDO partners and staff worldwide that I have learnt some of my most valuable lessons this year. For example:
Do the basics brilliantly: When it comes to big global networks, we can all look the same. But I firmly believe that we don’t all think the same - and we certainly don’t all feel the same to the client. What matters is the experience that our clients have of us. Travelling this year to all six of our annual regional meetings, I have been impressed and inspired by the energy of my BDO colleagues across the network. It’s thanks to our people’s expertise and high standards that we are able to deliver an exceptional service to our clients, and that we continue to grow our market share in the majority of the countries in which we are represented. This is just one element of what makes BDO unique.
A tailored approach is key: I have also witnessed first-hand that service expectations aren’t the same the world over – they vary dramatically from market to market. In India, I saw that clients seek deep personal relationships, including home visits. In Russia, clients will primarily want to speak to the most senior team members. That’s why delivering a tailored approach to client service is so important: this remains at the heart of our business and will continue to bring us success.
With challenge comes opportunity: We have experienced significant changes in Australia in the last year, resulting eventually in the integration of a new firm. Yes, it was challenging at the time, but the new firm has already strengthened our position in the country. Throughout 2012, we have welcomed a number of other new firms across the world, from Barbados to Puerto Rico to Vietnam, and more. In this way, we are able to support our clients as they expand abroad.
And although the global recession means that BDO, like most other businesses, will have to work harder to achieve growth, we also consider that it brings opportunity. In tough times, when clients are fiercely focused on cost, value and service, I know that no other global network is set up to adapt to individual client needs like BDO. Our firms continue to take responsibility locally for delivering a tailored, high-quality service that consistently meets - and exceeds - client expectations and this is what will continue to set us apart.
I also believe that the consolidation of our profession, which is ongoing in many parts of the world, will present us with a number of merger and acquisition opportunities. It’s no secret that BDO remains alert to these opportunities as we continue to strengthen our international presence.
We are all aware that the European Commission Green Paper discussions on audit reform have been extremely intensive over the past 12 months. It’s disappointing that we now find ourselves with a watered-down proposal that brings fewer opportunities for change. Nonetheless, we will continue to fight for improvements. I hope that in the end, the final results will make a positive contribution to opening up competition and choice in our profession, and with that will come further opportunities.
So, as I look forward to the BDO Biennial Lucerne 2012 this month, I am perhaps not as apprehensive as I was 12 months ago in Hamburg - but I am filled with just as much excitement. 2013 will bring new challenges and new opportunities. We at BDO will be ready for them.